"Thea..?" 19th or Early 20th Century Evangelical Club with Secrets

A while back, I was browsing the shelves of the Religion section of a used bookstore in Virginia. Along with all the Buddhist quote books, biographies of the Pope, and Evangelical self-help books was a small book that was noticeably older than most of the books on the shelf. I believe it may have been dated in the 19th century but in any case did not postdate the early part of the 20th.

Anyway, the book purported to describe an Protestant Evangelical/Fundamentalist outreach/parachurch group targeting young people that had similarities to today’s Campus Crusade for Christ, but had Secret Society elements mixed in. Here are some of the things I seem to recall:

  1. The name of the group started with “Thea” or something similar and the supposedly meant something in Ancient Greek.
  2. The group met in churches, but was not itself a church (i.e. it was similar to Campus Crusade for Christ and other similar groups today)
  3. The group itself was open to girls only, though it was stated that there was an equivalent group for boys that was not the subject of the book.
  4. The group had an official insignia that members could wear on their clothing to identify each other. There may have been a full uniform, but I cannot recall.
  5. The group had an outer circle and an inner circle. Both inner and outer circle members attended general meetings. The inner circle was composed only of members who, in the opinion of the group, had Accepted Jesus Christ As Their Lord And Savior, that is, they had been “saved” in a Protestant Fundamentalist context. The inner circle met separately and in secret. The purpose of the inner circle was to get the rest of the group Saved and inducted into the inner circle. Inner circle members gave progress reports on promising outer circle members and how close they thought they were to Accepting Jesus. The meetings of the inner circle, its intentions, and possibly its existence were supposed to be kept secret from those in the outer circle (lol! They expected people to join casually, not knowing that half of the members were scheming behind your back to make you one of them).
  6. The group had a secret sign. I don’t recall if it was described as a password, hand signal, or handshake. The book stated that the secret sign itself was not given in the book but could only be obtained by the reader making contact with the group itself.
  7. The group was not the YMCA or YWCA, and I do not recall there being any mention of them (e.g. if this group was an offshoot or a division)

I’m fairly certain that I didn’t dream this and that this was not a novel about parachurch ministries. It seemed too complex to be someone’s idea of a joke.

Anyway, I didn’t buy the book and the used bookstore is now gone.

Did such a group exist? If so, does it (or the equivalent boys group) still exist? If the group no longer has a distinct existence, did it shut down or was it subsumed into another Christian group like the YMCA/YWCA or Campus Crusade for Christ?

The Theosophical Society sort of fits that description, although I wouldn’t say they are anything like Campus Crusade for Christ.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosophical_Society

Upon further review, I don’t think the group I linked to is the one you are thinking about, because to my knowledge, the Theosophical Society would be more of an “Eastern Religion” as opposed to a “Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian” movement.

No, this wasn’t it. Thanks though!

Sounds like something from the Christian Endeavor Society youth ministry movement, but I’m not sure exactly what.

Based on the title alone I was going to say “Thelema”, but having read the actual OP clearly that isn’t it. The word is derived from Ancient Greek alright, but the similarities end there…